The Need for Heroes

Whenever some public figure falls from grace, the media tend to react with something like glee. We are currently being treated, if that’s the right word, to a great deal of lurid detail about ‘the Crystal Methodist’ — Paul Flowers, the ex-chairman of the Co-operative Bank. Is the media’s appetite (and our own) for such salacious copy just an exercise in collective schadenfreude, or does it reveal something simpler and sadder, our need for heroes and our disappointment when we discover that they are fallible? The Co-op and its businesses have occupied a unique place in British affections. We talk about ethical banking and investment, Fairtrade and the Co-op in the same way. Some may smile a worldly smile, but we know that there is a decency about the Co-op that demands respect. Sadly, that respect has become a little dented of late. Along with the man, the institution has suffered.

As with the Co-op, so with other institutions. Yet, despite all the outrage, the clamour for regulation and change, we often overlook a fundamental point. Institutions are made up of people. The values we hold as individuals are what shape our attitude to work and society. Can we reasonably expect others to be sea-green incorruptible if we ourselves are less than honest? Can we ask others to be heroes if we will not take on the challenge ourselves? The Catholic Church has always understood this business of heroes. The saints are given to us to encourage us, inspire us, even warn us. They are our heroes of faith — and they are all dead. A not-so-subtle reminder that none of us can claim integrity as an absolute! We need to persevere in virtue until our last breath. That is why we need to pray daily for the grace of fidelity and perseverance, that we may become what we are called to be.

Today is the feast of St Edmund, King and Martyr. We know comparatively little about him, but during the Middle Ages he was regarded as the patron saint of England and he has inspired some lovely works of art. Perhaps it is sometimes a good idea not to know too much about our heroes.


2 thoughts on “The Need for Heroes”

  1. I think that the witch hunt against Mr Flowers is obscene. Yesterday the media dragged up a conviction from more than 30 years ago?

    He has given an sincere apology for his conduct and faces more investigations by both the police and the Methodist Church, let alone the Parliamentary Inquiry into the Coop Bank, which is ongoing.

    While I don’t condone his conduct, I believe in forgiveness and that the Mercy of God is available to all, not just a select few. Why can’t the media see things in the same way?

    No wonder the media has lost public respect and confidence.

  2. Just so sad. And you’re right: there is a connection to our desire for heroes to emulate. While the call to integrity can never be lessened for anyone in a public role (or a private one for that matter), and especially for followers of Jesus, it’s an illusion to think we will find perfect heroes beyond Him.

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